Photography: Does Equipment Matter?
ONE of the most difficult aspects of selecting a camera is finding one which will suit your future needs as well as your present ones. Take a look at the four characters here, for example. They’re all photographers, but each has vastly different aspirations. The woman on the top left is using a Polaroid instant camera because she wants to view pictures immediately. No other camera suits her purpose. The person next to her, just about to embark on a travelling-light , trip, carries a zoom compact for maximum convenience and portability. To capture high-speed action down at the racing circuit, the photographer shown bottom left is employing a top quality motor-drive 35mm SLR with powerful telephoto lens fitted. Finally the fashion photographer on the bottom right has a substantial roll-film camera on a tripod, setting up for a location shoot.
What unites our four is that g their cameras have been chosen for functional reasons ~ not because they’ve heard the name or like the colour! You may wish to take pictures of family and friends on a casual basis only, or specialize in serious portraiture for profit. Or your interest may lie in wildlife, architecture, sport, landscapes, or still life. Each type of picture demands a different choice of equipment, so selecting the right tool for the job is important. The more you get bitten by the photo bug, the more items of equipment are required. With the right equipment, you’ll get the job done without wasting money.
That’s something the SLR user has to bear in mind all the time. A compact camera tends to be self-contained; SLRs by definition are more flexible, with the facility to interchange a number of components. Lenses, prisms, screens, backs, motordrives and a host of other accessories can be attached. Flashguns and filters are almost essential additions. Larger outfits are often kept in a customized bag or case for protection; tripod is vital to keep the-camera steady for those low-light scenes, or enable maximum depth of field to be utilized. Some photographers also prefer to retain complete control over their images, by developing and printing film in their own darkroom.
All these topics are comprehensively covered in this section, with the purpose of each item of equipment clearly explained and its best applications described. That way you won’t go down blind alleys when buying. Towards. The end of the section we look at specialized cameras, and there’s also a section on how to build up a cost-effective and coherent SLR system.
CHOOSING YOUR CAMERA
CAMERA selection can he simplified if you go back to the basic principles behind camera design. Irrespective of type, make or cost, all cameras fulfil one primary function – recording a scene by allowing a carefully controlled amount of light to fall onto the film surface. To achieve this, lour components are needed – a lens, a viewfinder, some method of exposure control and a film transport system. If you know what you want from the four basic components you’re well on your way to finding the right camera to suit your needs. Any other feature on the camera is just a refinement and you can decide whether your photographic needs justify the extra expense.
Ideally, you should go for the most versatile camera you can afford. You also need to decide how much control over the finished result you want. It you want a camera where all you have to think about is the picture, go for an automatic model. If you want learn about picture-taking then automation isn’t quite so important. You also need to consider how much weight you are pre’ pared to carry around.
With compacts, consider whether a 35mm wide-angle as often fitted is adequate, or whether you prefer a choice of focal length settings. Twin-lens compacts are a reasonable compromise, or further optical flexibility can be found with a zoom model at a higher price. High specification ‘bridge’ cameras offer the most versatility; though they hardly qualify as ‘compact’.
If you want control rather than convenience when taking pictures, the usual choice is a 35mm SLR. These range from basic manual models and simple autoexposure versions through to versatile multi-mode cameras which may be set to fully automatic mode, yet can also provide some form of exposure override or the option of full manual operation. If you own an SLR, lenses may be interchanged and other accessories added to increase its scope greatly.
Higher image quality may be obtained with a roll-film camera. Some are constructed along similar lines to 35mm models, and aren’t too far behind in terms of handling ease. Bulkier versions, however, are best left on a tripod in the studio. Large-format technical cameras deliver optimum picture quality, but are slow to set up and use.